Although there are five different definitions of the word knowledge, the first listing in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is sufficient for this discussion. The word is defined as follows, “Knowledge is defined as (1): the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association. With use of the phrase, gained-through-experience, it seems reasonable to assume that knowledge and understanding are synonymous. A realistic application of the word knowledge in a sentence is: Johnny has acquired so much knowledge since the day he became a Boy Scout three years ago. Knowledge is one specific type of competence which is any quality that helps a person fulfill their desires. (Troedson and Hending)
Understanding what a person knows means that they can apply and use it. It requires a higher level of critical thinking than just what is necessary to memorize facts. According to the Merriam-Webster reference it means “To know the meaning of something, such as the words that someone is saying or a language. Secondly, it means “to know how something works or happens or how someone thinks, feels or behaves.” Once again, these definitions insinuate that the words knowledge and understanding have the same meaning. Referring to the phrase, application-and-use of knowledge a good example is: Johnny used all of his training as a Boy Scout to survive when he was lost in the woods.
Like a ghostly force, life constantly points out examples of how knowledge and understanding are different in meaning. The bridge that spans the gap between the two words is a term called, application. For instance, understanding language is different from understanding the world (Strevens). If an English speaker sees, “The food is free at Johnny’s restaurant” in Spanish, they may not understand it without the help of symbols. Once it is translated, they can understand that they will not have to pay for a meal. Having that understanding will allow customers to make an informed decision. In conclusion, one term cannot adequately substitute for the other. As an example, teachers should have both knowledge and understanding of her student’s mathematical learning. (English, Even, and Tirosh, 219) Performing actions (like strategizing or explaining) demonstrate what people understand about all they claim to know.